To bring Alexa to more people’s lives, Amazon has come up with a new idea – putting smart speakers in university dorm rooms.
The company has announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Arizona State University (ASU), where 1,600 Echo Dots will be provided free for freshmen in the engineering program. Amazon will release an Alexa skill customized for ASU students, providing information on the school, the campus and course schedules.
New engineering students who opt in the program will receive an Echo Dot to be used in their dorm room, in the new high-tech residential building called the Tooker House.
Students participating in the program will take engineering classes that focus on voice development lessons. They will be encouraged to build Alexa skills using all available tools for Alexa developers.
Besides the first-year students, anyone in the ASU engineering school can enroll in voice app development courses.
Voice technology is considered an increasingly important topic in the perspective of not just Amazon, but also many other companies. When the development of voice assistant gains traction in the industry, universities will likely not be left out.
With this partnership, early-stage developers will get free device and test out their development results. Amazon can put its Echo devices into more students’ hands before they know about Google Home or the forthcoming Apple HomePod.
Along with the announcement, Amazon also announced that third-party commercial device makers can now build products powered by Alexa.
The Alexa Voice Service Device SDK toolset was in preview and provided to some invite-only companies for a period. It is now officially available to all device makers. With the development tool, device makers can have full access to Alexa’s speech recognition ability, as well as media streaming, notification and weather reporting capabilities, besides access to thousands of voice apps.
The SDK is now open to all developers through an open source license on GitHub, which includes hardware development kits, APIs, and documentation on how to create Alexa-enabled products. Existing Alexa-integrated products made by third-party manufacturers include Huawei Mate 9 smartphone and Ecobee4 smart thermostat.